Ok, I'm on a bit of a roll here, getting started on another Thing in the same Sunday afternoon, but it is cold and windy outside, my husband has the football on and my five year old daughter is cuddled up asleep and a chance to think about why I went into the library profession.
Before I started I took a look at the blog 'A Desk Set of One' by Ruthie Saylor and can honestly say, much of what she wrote I can really empathise with and say 'So did I' or 'That's so me'. I adored reading as a child, still do of course and have passed down my love of books to my daughter who this week at the age of 5 and four weeks into Year 1, became a free reader, meaning she has worked her way through the set books (Biff & Kipper etc) and can now read what she likes (within reason of course). I loved Enid Blyton (so does she - it is Amelia Jane for her at the moment), Lorna Hill, Antonia Forrest, Elinor Brent Dyer, Anne Digby, Ruby Ferguson and I still do love them, preferring to reread these more than ever. I also loved my local public library, doing BookTrack at least twice, but I never thought about being a librarian. My experiences of librarians were mostly good, but there are a few memories which really stick in my mind and now make me determined that I won't be like that. One was a library assistant in my public library who sneered/criticised my choice of reading at the tender age of 11 when I was into the Sweet Dreams series of books; an American, sweetly romantic series of books in which girls of 16 always got the boy of their dreams, even if they didn't know it at first. The other memory is really a lack of one, in that I cannot remember much about my school librarian and my school library except it was a place to hide from the popular kids in about Year 8 or 9 and where you spent your free periods in the sixth form. There was nothing else; no Information Literacy lessons, dedicated study support, library inductions. I can't even remember their being any book displays or anything.
After A-Levels, I went to university and studied a BA Honours degree in English and Contemporary History, combining my two great loves - reading and reading about history. Strangely enough my favourite part of both my two university libraries (Rolle College in Exmouth, part of Plymouth University and Aberystwyth) were the children's sections aimed at those students training to be teachers as I was transported back to those books I had loved in my childhood which possibly tells you why I ended up where I am now. It was only after I graduated with my BA 2:1, that I had to start thinking about what I wanted to do as a career; up till now I had just wanted to go to university and read English. I was really stuck in a dead end job which I hated (working in a clothes shop), when my then boyfriend asked me 'but what did you enjoy best about university? To which, I replied naturally 'reading and finding out about things'. Suffice it to say, that was it. I applied for several jobs in my local public library service, getting turned down for two in the Resources & Technical Services Unit before being offered a casual position in the Central Lending Library. I then managed to get a permanent position for 14 hours a week, desperately picking up as many cover hours as possible anywhere - branch libraries, reference, mobile - to make as near a full time job as I could manage.
Once I had been at the Central Library a year, I began to ask 'what now....?' I wasn't sure if just issuing and discharging books was what I wanted to do forever. I began to ask questions as to: How do you get promotion? What other jobs were there that I could do? How did you get to choose which books to buy? I was then put in touch with another member of staff who was doing her BA in ILS distance learning with Aberystwyth and by September 1999, about 15 months after starting as a casual, I had begun my MSc in Information & Library Studies. During the first three years of my PG Diploma in ILS, I continued to get as much library experience as possible, including a temporary position in the Central Reference Library and then becoming Central Lending Library Coordinator; a non professional position, managing about 15 members of staff. Unfortunately this was not what I or some of the other staff had hoped for and for a few awkward months I suffered a degree of resentment from some people who felt I had usurped them, still being a comparative newcomer to the profession.
Which is why I ended up going for a post as a School Librarian and where I still am today, although in a very different role from what I originally took. It wasn't a promotion as the original position was on a pro-rata salary, but it was a professional post and although I wasn't to qualify for my MSc for two years, the Principal employed me providing I completed my professional qualification. My role at the school has changed dramatically in 11 years from Librarian, to LRC Manager and Careers Coordinator in 2003, to Learning Resource Coordinator with whole school responsibility in 2005 and then Assistant Head of Sixth Form, 11 - 19 CEIAG AND Learning Resource Coordinator. My staffing has changed too as I now line manage a full time LRC Manager and a part-time LRC Assistant which leaves me as a middle manager to strategically manage the LRC, considering its place and development within the curriculum.
Am I happy? I think so, although there are occasions when I worry that my sixth form responsibilities overwhelm the library side of my job. Although I have always been careful to keep my job based in information; my role for sixth form and careers is very much IAG (information, advice and guidance) focused which draws on my professional background all the time, the very nature of a large and busy sixth form means that I can get distracted easily. Nevertheless my chartership is very much ongoing - this blog is a record of that and I really need to get back on track with that so I can charter by the end of the school year. What are my job prospects outside of schools? I am not sure, but I think that my new job description retains enough library and information based work to ensure that I keep up my professionalism.